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CU Buffs’ Mya Hollingshed capping career in NCAA Tournament

Senior came back for final season to help Colorado reach NCAA Tournament

 University of Colorado Boulder’s Mia Hollingshed shoots over Washington State’s Bella Murekatete during a Pac-12 game in Boulder on February 4, 2022.
(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
University of Colorado Boulder’s Mia Hollingshed shoots over Washington State’s Bella Murekatete during a Pac-12 game in Boulder on February 4, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

A year ago, the WNBA had its eyes on Mya Hollingshed, but she had her eyes on the NCAA Tournament.

“Honestly, my whole focus and goal was to do as much as I could for this program and to give my all,” the Colorado women’s basketball senior said.

Projected as a possible WNBA draft choice in 2021, Hollingshed elected to take the extra year of eligibility at CU granted by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her decision paid off Sunday when the Buffs (22-8) were officially invited to the NCAA Tournament. The 7th-seeded Buffs will play Creighton (20-9) on Friday in Iowa City, Iowa, at 11:30 a.m. MDT (TV: ESPNews).

It will be CU’s first trip to the tournament since 2013.

“I think it means everything to Mya,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “She came here for this purpose. She pushed back the beginning of her professional career for this purpose.”

After five years of aiming for the biggest stage in women’s college basketball, Hollingshed now knows her final game will be in the NCAA Tournament.

“That’s all I can think of. That’s all I can dream about,” she said. “It really does mean a lot. I’m very blessed. I’m very grateful for this program. It’s been a long time coming. Probably should have been here a couple of years earlier, but hey, we’re here now.”

Hollingshed hasn’t expressed much emotion about her individual milestones at CU, but getting to the tournament as a team brought out her smile and emotions.

“This is great,” she said. “I really don’t know what to feel. I’m really excited. I could probably cry right now.”

The Buffs had losing records in Hollingshed’s first two seasons, including a last-place finish in the Pac-12 in 2019. In her third year, 2019-20, the Buffs went 16-14 and were awaiting a spot in the WNIT when COVID-19 hit and canceled the postseason.

Last year, the Buffs went 12-11 during a shortened season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT.

Led by Hollingshed and fellow seniors Sila Finau and Peanut Tuitele, they’ve taken another step forward this year. Senior Aubrey Knight has been injured all season but has played a role in the growth, too.

“It means a lot,” Hollingshed said of CU’s climb. “Coach J, she talked to us about that, just coming here and having a vision, having a plan, just believing in the program. Not really knowing what to expect, but just building something from what we decide to build and I think we’ve done that over the years.

“People that have been in this program over the years have really helped in that development. For us to finally do that in my fifth year, this is the whole reason why I came back to experience this moment with my teammates, with my seniors –  Sila, Peanut, Aubrey. … For them to experience that so we can actually go to the dance and everything that we talked about, this is what basketball is all about.”

In addition to the goal of going to the NCAA Tournament, Hollingshed came back to have a “normal” senior year, since the 2020-21 season was played without fans in the stands.

“I wanted to do my senior night and have this experience with fans and alumni that have seen me grow up and develop in this program,” she said. “This is what it’s all about. It’s great to have family here like we talk about. This is what CU is; it’s a family and to have family in the building to share the excitement, this is what it’s all about.”

Although CU struggled early in Hollingshed’s career, she said, “I thought there were times where we could have made it (to the tournament). I just think we didn’t have the discipline or the motivation to really believe that we can really get there.”

This year, they had it, and while Hollingshed is thrilled to get to the NCAA Tournament, she doesn’t want the ride to end quickly.

“We’ve just got to make the most of it and we’re gonna do what we do best and try to go as far as we can,” she said.

“March is where you can keep building up your repertoire, keep adding to your bag, adding to your arsenal and just using all the weapons that we have at one time. I think it’ll be great to put all that on display.”

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